As a landlord, you never want to break any rental laws, and ensuring that you don’t is a great argument in favor of hiring a respected property management company in Denver. Whether you choose a representative or handle the duties yourself, there are six laws, in particular, you need to be aware of. Break these and you can find yourself in a lot of hot water financially and otherwise.
6 Denver Colorado Landlord Tenant Laws That You Need to be Aware of:
1. Violating a Tenant’s Right to Fair Housing
Violating someone’s civil rights is a whammy that every landlord and property management company in Denver wants to avoid. Put aside the fact that such cases are often difficult to prove. Even the appearance of discrimination or a lawsuit that receives publicity can seriously damage your business long-term. If you choose to deny someone tenancy, ensure that you have a valid reason that will stand up in court. In Colorado, it’s OK to reject tenants based on their criminal and credit histories, for instance. It’s not, however, all right to reject them based on aspects of a protected class.
Per federal law, protected classes include:
• Skin color
• Familial status
• National origin
• Physical and mental disabilities
Colorado law extends the protected classes to include:
• Marital status
• Sexual orientation
2. Negligence in Maintaining the Property
Most landlords carry liability insurance because standard home insurance generally won’t cover your obligation to a tenant. It’s a business after all. Property managers in Denver often recommend carrying upward of $1 million in coverage. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you—or your insurance company—is necessarily on the hook should a tenant or guest injure themselves. It really comes down to a matter of negligence or even wrongful conduct, which is why it’s so important to keep a unit well-maintained. If a tenant or guest simply falls and hurts themselves, you probably won’t be liable, but if that person can demonstrate that the fall occurred because you hadn’t fixed that bottom step, you will be.
3. Not Providing Habitable Housing
Under Colorado rental laws, landlords are required to maintain rental premises livable. This doctrine is called the implied warranty of habitability. If you don’t take care of important repairs, not only do you position yourself to be negligent in a personal injury case, you position yourself to not be legally owed rent. Even if your lease states you’re not required to perform repairs—which can’t be upheld in Colorado—your tenant has options, including the right to withhold rent. If your tenant knows what they’re doing and sends you a notice, you’re now in a bad situation. Even if you make the repair and collect the rent, there’s now a document trail that can weaken your position in many other matters.
4. Landlord Retaliation
Rental laws in Colorado include a statute concerning landlord retaliation. Colorado provides tenants numerous rights, including the right to file complaints against a landlord, such as mentioned in the section above concerning the implied warranty of habitability. Once a client exercises one of these rights, then any action that the landlord takes subsequently will be under greater scrutiny for acts of retaliation. If a tenant files a notice and withholds rent, for instance, and the landlord then moves to evict, the court would consider that eviction within that context. If they deemed it to be a retaliatory eviction, then the landlord could face fines and other penalties and incur punitive damages.
5. Not Providing Notice to Terminate a Lease or Increase Rent
Unless a landlord and a tenant have agreed to a lease with a fixed end date, then a legal notice is required. The notice must be delivered within a timeframe set forth by C.R.S. 13-40-107. Leases less than a week require a day, less than a month requires three days, less than a year requires 28 days, yearly leases require 91 days and so forth. A landlord who fails to follow through may have a tenant for an extended period that isn’t legally required to pay rent. Also, note that the cancellation clause within a lease can’t supersede the law in favor of the landlord but can in favor of the tenant.
6. Failing to Return the “Full” Security Deposit
Last but certainly not least are the rental laws involving security deposits. Colorado doesn’t limit how much of a deposit you can demand, but property managers in Denver will tell you that too high a deposit will certainly increase your vacancy time. The one law you never want to violate is the requirement to return the deposit in “full” in the required time frame. By default, that term is 30 days, and it can be negotiated in the lease up to 60 days. We use quotes around full because Colorado law does allow a landlord to withhold part or all of the deposit for rent due, cleaning and damage above normal wear and tear, but the landlord needs to be able to support that claim in court.